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The Big Advantage of MicroInverters
Feb24

The Big Advantage of MicroInverters

In the old days of solar, all the PV panels used to be connected to a single, large inverter that would convert the direct current (DC) of the sun into the alternating current (AC) we use in outlets around the home. The system acted like one giant solar panel, with its max current rating equivalent to its poorest performing PV unit. That means if one of those connected panels experienced a reduction in energy because it was covered by shade or it failed, the entire system would experience that loss. Similar to the way a string of christmas lights will fail if one goes down, the saying, “you’re only strong as your weakest link” comes to mind when thinking of how these single inverter setups work. Then in 2008 Enhphase released the first commercially successful microinverter. The idea behind the project was to allow each panel to function more autonomously, so if one panel had issues the entire energy output of the system wouldn’t suffer. In order to do this, microinverters are used on every PV panel or every other PV panel, and have become popular in homes, where solar array sizes are small and maximizing the performance of every panel is necessary. Since 2008, microinverters have become increasingly intelligent and companies such as APsystems have innovated technology like a Field Programmable Gate Array chip with software that can be wireless programed to modify each panel’s DC-to-AC conversion to meet the demands of a changing environment without needing to climb up on the roof and replace the hardware. Such residential microinverters like the APsystem’s YC500A allow users to monitor each microinverter unit, giving them a clear overview of the entire system at any time. If a panel fails or is not performing well, it can be quickly identified. Additionally, because every unit functions more independently than the antiquated single inverter system, different models of solar panels can be rigged up to feed into the same power system. This makes it so a homeowner doesn’t have to replace all their PV panels at one time, but can swap out or add new panels as the technology improves. No doubt that when it comes to renewable energy such as PV solar or wind turbines, microinverters offer more flexibility and advantage. Some studies put them at producing 5-25% more power than the single inverter systems. As the solar market continues to expand, we’re going to see these little guys make a huge...

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Central Inverter vs. Microinverters: The Pros and Cons

So you’re installing a photovoltaic (PV) system.  Do you go with microinverters or stick with a central inverter? What does an inverter do? The task of an inverter is to convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into alternating current (AC), which is needed for the overwhelming majority of electrical devices.  The AC power that isn’t used by your home is back-fed into the utility grid, hence the term “grid-tied.”Click here to learn about the basic components of a PV system. Microinverters Microinverters convert the DC electricity from each panel into usable, grid-quality AC electricity.   They attach behind individual solar panels in the array, allowing each module to operate independently instead of optimizing for the “weakest link.”  Turning the solar panels’ DC electricity into AC at a modular level means there is no single point of failure and you’re maximizing the potential output of your system. Because of this, microinverters are particularly advantageous for systems in locations that have shading or some potential coverage (i.e. dirt, snow, chimneys, etc). Microinverters also use a technology called Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), which optimizes the electricity output by responding to the varying levels of light every couple of minutes. In addition to maximizing the yield of your system, micoinverters’ easy design, installation, and scalability have made them popular for residential applications.   Besides getting up on a roof and pulling a permitting, adding to your existing system with microinverters  like the Enphase M215 microinverter should be little trouble.   Each microinverter has its own IP address so it can be monitored remotely with web-based software.  Microinverters also allow for module level monitoring and comprehensive analytics, making it possible for you to view how much energy is being produced by each solar panel. The main disadvantage of microinverters is the price tag- they still cost more per Watt than central inverters.  Critics of microinverters have also made note that these sensitive electronics can exposed to elevated temperatures on the roof and there is lack of field data to go along with their 25-year warranty. Enphase Energy currently dominates the microinverter market and has been increasingly popular for residential applications, particularly in California.   Enphase offers a twenty-five year limited warranty on their microinverters. Microinverters are recommended for residential and DIY solar applications, especially if there are shading concerns or there’s a chance of expanding the system in the future. Pros: • Easy design, installation, & scalability • Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) • Optimized for shading • Remote monitoring capability Cons: • Less of field data • More expensive • Relatively new technology Central Inverter Traditionally, central inverters have...

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